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No Gaijins

Posted on 2005/11/26 07:31:28 (November 2005).

[Saturday 26th November]
We'd found a flat on Wednesday which we quite liked, and had filled in all the application forms etc. Hoping that the unpleasant business of finding a place to live was all behind us, we'd set out to have a stress free weekend of relaxation and fun. I think you can see what is coming. We got a phonecall in the morning saying that our application had been rejected, the reason they gave was simply that I was a foreigner.

I've heard lots of similar stories, and the last thing I want is people to read this post and reply saying "I could have told you that was going to happen" - that is only going to serve to get me even more angry than I already am. It just isn't the same until it happens to you personally, it's yet another slap in the face from those among the Japanese who are intrinsically xenophobic and are keen to let foreigners know at every opportunity they are not welcome here.

The standard excuse for not renting out property to gaijins is that "they don't understand Japanese culture", so somehow this means automatically they will trash the place, annoy the neighbours, and then run off without paying the rent. Well first of all, whilst I am not in a position to deny that this has ever happened, it seems a little unfair to tar all foreigners with the same brush. The group rather generally labelled "gaijin" in Japan does account for quite a large number of people - there are almost six billion of them, you know.

Moreover though, it was not my name on the contract - it was Chie's. She's a Japanese citizen, and we also put forward a Japanese guarantor. Chie has a job which pays better than the required minimum salary, in a well respected company. Put in other words, if she wanted to live there by herself, they would have accepted no problem. I was simply entered as an additional resident, not the person responsible for paying the rent or anything. If I flee the country it really makes no odds - it is Chie who they need to chase up. I also happen to have a decent paying job with a well respected company, which I had provided the agency with proof of even though they hadn't asked for it. The form didn't even ask my nationality, my gaijin status was just assumed from my foreign sounding name... as a result we were rejected, and I can't hide the fact that I'm pretty pissed off about it.

So Chie could live with an unemployed sociopath with a criminal record no problem, so long as he was Japanese. A convicted serial killer, no problem, A gaijin, god forbid!

In those terms their policy of not renting to gaijins can't really be disguised as anything other than blatant racism. Well Japan, when your aging population finally runs out of enough tax paying workers to pay their pensions, then I hope your negative approach towards immigrants still feels worth it! Honestly, good luck with that!

When I looked at my payslip yesterday and saw the substantial chunk of it that had been taken away for tax, at the time I thought "Yea, fine - happy to help!". Today on the other hand I am pretty bitter about the fact that I am contributing towards the pensions of the same people who are telling me I am not welcome here.

I have a feeling I will look back on this post in a few weeks or months' time and think "Wow - I'm amazed I let myself get so worked up over that". However, I am angry right now, and I feel this is an important thing to distill.

Comment 1

Well, it is important, but it's part of the game that you are playing (expat game). Take it from someone who's had to take millions of these behaviours, when in England and Japan, it's hard at first but you get used to it later. We (gaijins) are so much better anyways. Plus look at the positive side, you can afford not to comply to all those non-written Japanese social laws that are a pain in the arse to respect at times. Payback will come, Johnny boy, plus that flat was crap to start with!

Posted by Lox at 2005/11/26 10:06:30.

Comment 2

I like the idea of deciding it was crap based on the fact we were rejected - I'm a great believer in "It wasn't meant to be", which in reality is nothing more than a useful construct to deal with disappointment.... still though it works for me!

Posted by John at 2005/11/26 10:29:45.

Comment 3

Oh, and having read around a bit I have found the other common excuse for not renting to gaijins (in addition to the supposed communication difficulties, and the apparent danger of them running off without paying the rent) is that they make too much noise.

However, interestingly one "special feature" that was advertised for this appartment is that the sound proofing was particularly good, and unusually it was permitted to play musical instruments there.

Maybe I just smell bad or something.

Posted by John at 2005/11/26 13:42:08.

Comment 4

I am afraid that the more you look into it the more you'll get disappointed and upset.... In the end remember that a Japanese would eventually use the "JAPANESE EYE" story, where basically they explain to you that they are better than normal people and therefore you cannot understand (it's a REAL medical theory that explains that a Japanese body is different from the rest of the world, therefore they are better, sort of idea... - Yes I know it's also called Nazism).

Posted by Lox at 2005/11/26 14:31:15.

Comment 5

lox your comments are questionable and racist. first you say you experience the same thing in england - i can assure you that yoo wil never be refused a fat because you are a foreigner.

seconly are you being serious when you say "we gaijin are better" - because if you are, maybe then you can see some logic behind the japanese attitude to gaijin.

Posted by i-cee at 2005/11/26 15:04:16.

Comment 6

Hi I-Cee!
Well well...
I speak from experience, not from something that I have heard while walking down the street, maybe I am just unlucky, but if you want a fit example, a very famous university (in which I have studied as a REGULAR student for 4 years) in England refused me a place in one of their dorms because I was not English.
They told me plainly that it was the cause, so there is no mistake there.
Secondly it's well known that British people are not racists, but on the other side it's also pretty clear that foreigners are picked on a lot.

The "we are better" thing comes from there, after you have to endure for the millionth time the usual twatt who tells you that you are a Mafia henchman becuse you are Italian, you start thinking that it's useless replying because you are so much better than that little box in which people try to put you (maybe 'cause they are envious for some strange reason?).

It's a behaviour that I have only experienced recursively in England, though jokes and stereotypes about other nations are common everywhere.

I have a lot of great friends in England, and I would never dare saying that they are racists or anything.
I feel like at home there, but on the other side I know that it's not all "sugar and spice and all things nice", there are a lot of bad apples too.
Same thing applies to Japan, nation that I love madly and that I have a fair good knowledge of, and even there (more on the work side of things), racist behaviours are rather common (until they understand that I can speak Japanese :) ).

Believe me I didn't want to generalize, it's not my style and I know it's wrong.

Posted by Lox at 2005/11/26 17:52:01.

Comment 7

Lox, I didn't know you had been refused a place in hall whilst at university in England on account of not being English. I am very surprised by this incident in fact. Had you reported this to the necessary authorities (perhaps the student union first, then the necessary people within the university) then I can guarantee action would have been taken. A solid infrastructure exists within the university itself, and within the country as a whole, to prevent this kind of discrimination taking place.

There's the difference between England and Japan. Whereas in England, like most other developed countries, there are laws which prevent racial discrimination, and an infrastructure which will give you some recourse, in Japan this simply doesn't exist to the same extent.

Had the roles been reversed, and we'd been refused a flat in England on the grounds of Chie being a foreigner, I would have reported the landlord to the relevant authorities and some action could have been taken.

Here however people just shrug their shoulders and say "shoganai" - there's nothing that can be done about it. In this way the discrimination is allowed to continue, and gaijin will continue to be confined to their over-priced and badly maintained "gaijin houses".

No doubt people will tell me "If you don't like it here you can always go home", but I'd like to point out the main reason I'm here is for Chie.

I'll re-iterate the point that they would have been happy for her to live in this particular appartment by herself, and all of the tenant/landlord dealings would have taken place with her.

So in a way it feels like she is being penalised for the fact that she happened to have a foreign partner. This doesn't make me feel particularly good about myself, like I am a liability or something. I feel I ought to be apologising for the fact that I'm a foreigner.

Posted by John at 2005/11/27 02:22:01.

Comment 8

I don't think either Chie nor you are being penalized. Would you really want to live in a place where the board/committee are a bunch of racists ?

I doubt they would have let you lived there in peace.

That place was just not right for you and Chie. You are not the problem here so don't be so hard on yourself.

Posted by Catherine at 2005/11/27 04:15:43.

Comment 9

catherine its ok to just shrug your shoulders and say move on but its a standard thing in japan - its not just a one off occurrence. as john mentioned most gaijin end up being stuffed inside a "gaijin house" at far higher rates than the japanese. japan for the japanese and all that. but as john points out he is not there as your average backpacker/ex-pat - he has distinct personal reasons for wanting to be there, which makes this type of blantant discrimination tougher to swallow.

lox, see john's point above about being refused a flat in the uk - japans racism seems to me to be instituonalised, whereas in the uk it can be called to account by complaining to the relevant autorities. in japan these authorities dont exist, or favour the locals. and they wouldn't have it any other way.

Posted by i=cee at 2005/11/27 09:53:34.

Comment 10

Thanks Catherine and to all the above for your kind words...

I think I've got over it now, I've spent a weekend feeling pissed off about it (which has been an irritating waste of a weekend), but will start afresh next week, and no doubt we'll find another place.

I haven't really lost anything, no cuts or bruises, just wasted a bit of time and have got a bit pissed off. That's all really - no doubt in a couple of weeks I'll have forgotten all about this episode!

Posted by John at 2005/11/27 10:00:33.

Comment 11

John, I-cee: Yep, in reality I didn't have time to report anything as I was leaving for my year out in Japan and I had to arrange the accomodation for my return beforehand. I just let it go, as many other things (by the way John it was the hall in which you lived the first year).
I agree that in Europe these behaviuors can be persecuted, while in Japan is the normality. But here you have to distinct the two completely different types of history, where Japan and Asia in general were closed a lot towards foreigners until 1860 (circa).
Apart from housing I have found very racist behaviours only in the work environment, where mobbing is the normality.
Then again taken one by one japanese people are great. I have a family there that I ADORE, that I can go and see whenever I feel like, and that eevn if they are not my relatives I call mum and dad. They even keep my room from when I was living there! I have a throng of friends who invite me to marriages and so on, I feel like in Italy.

All in all I completely sympatize with John, as I know how one's feel about it, though it last only a couple of days, after all there are better houses and this one was clearly not meant to be! :)

Posted by Lox at 2005/11/27 11:03:51.

Comment 12

on a lightheated and no-doubt trivialising the whole subject, perhaps you should take on a new japanese persona, if i recall i think chie wanted to call you Takashi? perhaps this might make you less guijiny- on paper at least?

Posted by kev at 2005/11/27 17:01:38.

Comment 13

That suggestion is not as daft as it sounds Kev!

Posted by John at 2005/11/27 23:49:36.

Comment 14

Being refused a hall place is a different story. The University has only X number of Hall places. A certain (quite high) percentage go to Foreign Students and the rest go to the homeland students. These are government quotas set so that one side or the other are not pushed out of halls. If it was up to the Uni, they would fill Halls with foreign students but that would not be fair to the homeland ones.

Housing is different because there are no quotas set in the same way.

I think the annoying thing about this situation is the helplessness of it. There is nothing you can do about it. It's part of the culture. Ironically, you being angry about it can be viewed as your lack of understanding of the culture at its core.

I do hope there aren't further issues with being a gaijin. What about buying a house, are you allowed to own property?

Posted by Rob Lang at 2005/11/29 10:36:39.

Comment 15

Dale and Erina are in the process of buying a house (in fact it is not yet buiilt). My understanding is that everything is being done in Erina's name. I'm not sure if this is because it is utterly impossible for foreigners to own property, or if it just makes life much easier.

I have been told it is hard to get any kind of credit in Japan (either credit cards or a loan or whatever) if you're a foreigner, so presumably this applies to mortgages too.

Obviously though, there is a certain amount of caution from bankers the world over - if they can't ascertain that you have a decent credit history etc then they will obviously be relucatant to give you the money. Clearly being from another country is going to make it much harder to prove a credit history.

Posted by John at 2005/11/30 04:42:02.

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